At Katherine Low Settlement we’ve been providing free English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) courses for migrant and refugee communities in Wandsworth, since 1999. This enables our students to improve their English literacy and language across the four skills of speaking, listening, reading and writing; as well as their maths and IT skills.
What follows is a short update about what we’ve been up to since the beginning of the new academic year (September-October’20).
- We have enrolled a total of 98 students for this new academic year.
- We have recruited 23 new students so far and 21 of those are attending regularly. The remainder were learning with us last year.
- New enquiries are still trickling in, so we will continue to interview those until half-term.
- After that anyone else will be put on the waiting list. We already have some names on the waiting list (those who we have assessed to be working at a level higher than E2/E3) as our highest level is E3/L1 this year and is already full to capacity.
- We are hoping to have a waiting list group run by volunteers starting in January 2021, but all dependent on the current health advice. This will be reviewed as we get closer to the end of the year.
There are a few factors affecting attendance:
- School closures – as most of the students are parents, many have been experiencing their children being sent home because of a Covid case in their child’s class bubble.
- Sickness – everyone emerging from lockdown at the same time has meant lots of the usual coughs and colds spreading rapidly.
- Appointments – so many people have had doctors/council/advice appointments delayed over the last 6 months. There has been a twofold increase in students having to miss classes to attend appointments. We don’t feel we can make the usual plea to rearrange appointments for more convenient times!
- Nervousness – many students are very nervous about coming out of shielding situations, which is totally understandable. This is affecting both their attendance in class and also use of the crèche.
- Creche – so far, we have about half as many children using the crèche this academic year. Although, as parents share information and witness the measures that we have put in place for running our creche safely, more of them are gradually putting their fears aside, and attendance is slightly increasing.
- Cultural – A few of our female students had to struggle to get to class in the first place, sometimes won over many months of negotiation with their families around home responsibilities. Unfortunately, due to being at home 24/7 for several months over lockdown, some families are finding it difficult to let the matriarch return to the classroom. Our ESOL manager is contacting each students individually and addressing families concerns, and allaying fears over our safety measures where possible.
Classes so far
- We’ve been teaching face-to-face since 14th September.
- Similar to adjusting to online learning for Lockdown, we are now adjusting to teaching with students sitting in rows and apart from each other. It’s not ideal, but we can only work with what we have.
- For the two larger groups, this means that we have had to split them in half and they are only getting one class a week.
- It’s all a bit of a learning process for every one of us, but our lovely students are very patient and we’re still focusing hard on achievement.
- In the same way that government advice is constantly changing, we are continually reviewing our offer and assessing how we should be delivering the lessons.
- We are in contact with other ESOL providers, to make sure that we are all picking up on local need. As yet we are the only local charity to have resumed face-to-face classes, everyone else is still teaching online.
- We have not yet addressed or started any ‘blended’ learning (i.e. online and face-to-face at the same time). This is partly due to available tech and teacher engagement with digital learning, but also a lot to do with the nature of ESOL classrooms. This learning environment is very much student centred and collaborative and doesn’t lend itself easily to lecture style classes. Having said that, as a team, we are in regular discussion about ways to work around this, so that we can get up to full capacity lessons.
Training for online learning (teachers)
- The teaching team has been gearing themselves up for all possibilities. So far, we have run two training sessions around Google classroom, Zoom and adapting materials for online learning. Further sessions are in the pipeline.
- We are also planning training for volunteers so that they can co-teach and assist with online classes. We will be including safeguarding as an element of this training.
Training for online learning (students)
- We’re making sure every student has a g-mail e-address so that they can have access to online learning. This will obviously be different according to the level of English a student is studying at. All the teachers have a Google classroom up and running for their class group, as well as a WhatsApp group for day-to-day communication.
- In order that every student can access the class materials, we have a magazine file for each class so that we can leave the week’s materials inside. If we do have a class closure, or a student is unable to attend, students will be able to come and help themselves to either study on their own or have the materials in front of them while attending a zoom session with their teacher. This will be particularly useful for the lower levels who have limited literacy and digital skills.
- We have now started our laptop lending library, so that students without any access to a computer, can borrow a laptop for the academic year. We are running 1-hour training sessions to set these up with the students. Very exciting!
- The first of 3, six session IT classes this academic year are starting up after half-term. The aforementioned laptop training sessions are forming part of the initial assessment of need for the 10 students to whom we can offer classes each term.
All is going well so far. However, our ESOL programme is moving forward along a different trajectory than we would have imagined a year ago. The team is adapting well, as are the students. We are laying the foundations for a different provision (as we’ve outlined above), but one that still has achievement and inclusion very much at its core.
If you have any questions/comments then please do get in touch.
Fran Juckes 020 7223 2845
Head of ESOL [email protected]
Katherine Low Settlement www.klsettlement.org.uk